Legislators score

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Auntie Ruth likes to know how politicians measure up, so she recently checked out the California League of Conservation Voters’ annual Environmental Scorecard, released in late October for the 2008 legislative session. The state Legislature was scored on 24 bills, including one the CLCV considers one of the greatest victories in the eco-political organization’s 36-year history: the passage of Senate Bill 375, a land-use reform bill that attempts to reduce sprawl and long-distance commutes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger scored 60 percent, a low score partially attributed to his veto of Senate Bill 974, which would have reduced air pollution in communities near major ports in California. Senate Republicans’ average score was 12 percent, while Democrats averaged 90 percent. Assembly Democrats averaged 93 percent and Republicans scored an average of 14 percent.

In his two years living at Walden Pond in Massachusetts, naturalist Henry David Thoreau meticulously observed and documented the area’s flora. He described Mother Nature as “living poetry,” and he wrote a book inspired by his experience in this special place. But now he’d have significantly less to write about, as 27 percent of the plant species documented by Thoreau have disappeared, and 36 percent exist in such small numbers their die-offs may be imminent, according to research by Harvard biologists. These researchers attribute the disappearances to climate change. Temperatures in the area have increased by 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-1800s, and some plants simply don’t respond well to heat increases.

Your dear Aunt Ruthie knew something wasn’t right. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been claiming for years that the chemical bisphenol A—used in plastic food containers, baby bottles and other household products—is harmless to people. But Ruth never believed this, seeing as how more than 100 government and university-funded studies link BPA to cancer, diabetes, behavioral disorders and reproductive problems. The problem might be that the federal government’s classification of the chemical’s safety relies on two industry-funded studies. In late October, an advisory committee suggested the FDA re-evaluate BPA’s health risks, calling the current risk assessment flawed. Auntie Ruth can’t wait to see what happens.